The Blues have maintained an intense desire to bring Declan Rice to Stamford Bridge for several years now, with the Guardian recently confirming that the 23-year-old wishes to leave and will not extend his contract, expiring in 2024.
“I see my friends who play in the Champions League, winning the big trophies. You only get one career and at the end of your career you want to look back at what you’ve won.”
Rice has been making steady gains over the past few years in East London, and it’s no mere coincidence that his emergence to the scene runs parallel to West Ham’s won ascension to European football, after narrowly staving off relegation in the 19/20 campaign.
Having made 215 appearances for the Irons, scoring 11 goals and 12 assists, the 37-cap England international has earned plaudits for his tenaciously industrious approach to the midfield play, dictating the tempo, launching robust challenges and searching for forward openings.
It’s exactly why journalist Rob Blanchette once dubbed him “a monster in midfield” earlier this season.
And should Chelsea pursue, they would wield a player reminiscent of a former star at the centre in Nemanja Matic.
Matic, who now pays his trade for AS Roma in the twilight stage of his career, was regarded as one of Europe’s best holding midfielders when he was at his zenith, and Rice could flourish with the Blues in his place.
Sticking to the basics and instilling composure and stability, the 34-year-old was impressive during his Chelsea career, winning three league titles, and his blueprint is one that should be followed by any like-minded midfielders looking to achieve success at Stamford Bridge.
The £68.6m-rated Rice, as valued by Transfermarkt, would likely require a mammoth bid exceeding that amount if the Hammers were to relinquish possession of the ace, with sources touting a fee closer to £150m.
Such a fee might seem astronomical, but the statistics illustrate the prowess of the ace, with FBref ranking him within the top 6% for pass completion and 7% for interceptions when compared to midfielders across Europe’s major leagues this past year.
And with WhoScored recording his 2.4 tackles and 1.6 interceptions in the Premier League this term, it’s clear that Chelsea would have some weapon on their hands should they succeed in their efforts.
Also, with N’Golo Kante and Jorginho both approaching the conclusion of their Chelsea contracts this summer, the space is indeed freed for someone of Rice’s mould, who would adopt the anchor position in the team with aplomb, whilst also serving as a pivot when required.
Having been released from the Cobham academy at 14 years old, Rice found a home with the Hammers and has since proved that he has all the tools to become a leading central force for the coming age of football, both for club and country.
And with the “force of nature” – as dubbed by journalist Rob Blanchette – displaying no signs of slowing down, Chelsea will feel rising confidence that they can hook the Englishman and reel him back into the fold, melding into the heart of the engine and fuelling the new Chelsea era.